Oakland crash pilot inadequately trained, NTSB says

Gary Miles
The Detroit News

A newly hired Oakland County pilot was inadequately trained when he crashed his plane on descent to Oakland County International Airport in January 2014, the NTSB concluded.

Andrew Demos, 32, of Waterford Township, died on Jan. 10, 2014, when the plane he was flying crashed into trees and terrain 1,500 feet short of the runway.

The fatal flight was the final leg of a challenging trip for the pilot, who was to depart the next morning on a family trip to Florida.

The NTSB cited pilot error as the cause of the crash, which occurred at night in fog. Contributing factors were inadequate training and supervision by the freight company, Waterford-based Royal Air Freight. Also cited was the pilot’s lack of experience in similar night conditions in that type of airplane.

His training in the airplane involved in the crash was with a company pilot who was not sanctioned to instruct him, the report said.

Andrew Demos

“The pilot's flight training in the accident airplane make and model was during a flight with a company pilot who was not approved by the FAA to provide Part 135 instruction,” said the Dec. 17 report on the probable cause of the accident.

“Further, although company records stated that the pilot met the training requirements for ground and flight training in accordance with the company training manual, the minimum flight times in the accident airplane make and model were not met.”

A company official did not return calls seeking comment on the NTSB findings.

Demos was an Eagle Scout who had lived and flown in Alaska, Australia, Wisconsin and Illinois before living in Michigan. He went to Northern Illinois University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, according to an obituary published by Brust Funeral Home of Lombard, Ill.

Royal Air Freight hired Demos after interviews in late November 2014. He passed his check ride with the company on Dec. 19 and had flown four flights totaling about 40.5 hours for the company at the time of the crash.

Demos and his wife had for at least two months been planning a trip in which they would leave for Florida in a rental car on Jan. 11 and return to Michigan by airline.

Five days before they planned to leave, Demos got a call from Royal Air Freight on Jan. 6 saying he would need to fly to either Atlanta or Fargo.

He and his wife exchanged texts while he was away and on Jan. 9 Demos reported that he would return at 6 p.m. that night. Later, he texted that he was frustrated with scheduling and there was a “major lack of communication” from Royal Air Freight. At 7:45 p.m. he texted that his plane was broken.

The following day, the Cessna 310 he was flying had an engine starter replaced and nitrogen put in for a low tire in Atlanta.

At 4:58 p.m. on Jan. 10, he departed Atlanta for Oakland County. Much of the flight was uneventful, the NTSB said in an earlier December report on the crash.

Conditions in Metro Detroit were not good, however.

A forecast issued after 6 p.m. and which covered the accident time anticipated visibility of two miles, with mist, an overcast cloud base at 400 feet above the ground. Some conditions would drop to three-quarters of a mile visibility, light rain, mist and a cloud ceiling at 200 feet.

Surface observations included fog at the time of the crash.

“Single-pilot operations can be much more challenging because the pilot must continue to fly by the instruments while attempting to acquire a visual reference for the runway,” according to the FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook. “While it is important for both pilots of a two-pilot aircraft to divide their attention between the instruments and visual references, it is even more critical for the single- pilot operation.”

Two pilots who landed before and after the crash gave the NTSB detailed accounts of the conditions.

Demos descended with some airspeed and position fluctuations and struck the trees short of the runway, according to the investigation.

The post-crash investigation found nothing that would have precluded normal operation of the aircraft.

“A review of the weather for the pilot’s previous company flights showed that he had not flown in actual conditions that were at approach minimums that night,” the report said.


Twitter: @garymiles_DN